The NAACP has lost its legal battle to silence a black pro-life writer who parodied its pro-abortion stance by referring to the NAACP as the “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People.”After LifeNews.com blogger Ryan Bomberger published his article at LifeNews, the NAACP threatened to sue LifeNews.com and Bomberger over the column that took the civil rights organization to task over its abortion position. The NAACP is upset about a column Bomberger wrote at LifeNews titled, “NAACP: National Association for the Abortion of Colored People” and a legal battle between it and Bomberger ensued.
Last year, a judge issued a ruling in the NAACP lawsuit against Bomberger. The judge indicated that Bomberger had no First Amendment right to lampoon the NAACP by calling it the “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People” in an effort to mock its pro-abortion position and opposition to pro-life legislation.
Today, the federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned that decision and ruled in favor of full free speech rights for Bomberger, his group the Radiance Foundation, and LifeNews.com. Judge Harvey Wilkinson wrote the opinion on behalf of the three-judge panel that unanimously ruled against the NAACP.
The ruling upheld Bomberger’s and LifeNews’ “expressive right to comment on social issues under the First Amendment.”
“We vacate the injunction against Radiance entered by the district court and remand with instructions that defendant’s counterclaims likewise be dismissed,” the court ruled, adding that it rejected the NAACP’s attempt to “obstruct the conveyance of ideas, criticism, comparison, and social commentary. Political discourse is the grist of the mill in the marketplace of ideas.”
As far as calling the NAACP the “National Association for the Abortion of Colored People” – the appeals court even went as far as saying Bomber’s piece at LifeNews wasn an inventive and effective parody. “Biting, surely; distortive, certainly; Radiance’s ploy was nonetheless effective at conveying sharply what it was that Radiance wished to say,” it said. “The use of the satirical modification of the true NAACP name was designed, as many titles are, to be eye-catching and provocative in a manner that induces the reader to continue on.”
Before the decision, Bomberger said he was surprised the venerable civil rights group would sue him, a black pro-life person. “This lawsuit should be shocking to any American who values truth and the First Amendment,” explains Bomberger. “The irony is painful. The NAACP is suing me—a black man—for exercising my Constitutionally-guaranteed right to free speech.”
“Rush Limbaugh has parodied the NAACP’s name since Clarence Thomas’s Supreme Court confirmation,” Bomberger points out. “But the NAACP hasn’t sued a wealthy broadcaster, with an audience of millions, for parodying them every time he refers to them. I’m honored they feel threatened by a small, life-affirming organization’s illuminating words.”
The ACLU has officially sided with The Radiance Foundation stating: “…the right to parody prominent organizations like the NAACP is an essential element of the freedom of speech.” The Electronic Frontier Foundation, which joined the ACLU in the Amicus Brief, expressed deep concerns “because a decision holding [The Radiance Foundation] liable for trademark infringement threatens a huge range of expression…Judge Jackson’s decision misreads both trademark law and the First Amendment.”
Bomberger says the real problem is not his free speech but the NAACP’s abortion advocacy. “Abortion doesn’t advance people of color,” he said. “The NAACP is on the wrong side of this human rights issue, and they are wrong to try to silence our free speech, too.”
Following the piece, the NAACP sent Bomberger, the director of the Radiance Foundation, and LifeNews a threatening letter claiming infringement on its name and logo for including it in the opinion column. The letter accuses Bomberger and his group, the Radiance Foundation, of “trademark infringement” over an ad campaign that exposes the NAACP’s pro-abortion position. Stating that while “you are certainly entitled to express your viewpoint, you cannot do so in connection with a name that infringes on the NAACP’s rights,” the letter demands a response within a self-imposed time period.
In response to the letter, Bomberger asked a federal court to declare that the First Amendment protects his and the Radiance Foundation’s exercise of free speech and that his speech does not infringe on any of the NAACP’s trademarks or other rights. The lawsuit does not seek any damages.
In its countersuit, the NAACP’s counterclaim denies that the NAACP is pro--abortion or has even taken a position on the issue.
Despite the fact the LifeNews article in question simply parodied the NAACP’s name, criticized the organization’s documented pro-abortion actions, and used the NAACP’s unaltered logo to identify the civil rights group the judge refused to dismiss the case as a First Amendment issue. Although the NAACP took offense at the article, Bomberger has frequently spoken out about the NAACP’s pro-abortion stance and its ignoring how abortion disproportionately targets black unborn children. The NAACP recently came under fire for opposing a bill to ban abortions based on race.
“The damage done is the loss of over 15 million black lives to abortion,” Bomberger, an adoptee and adoptive father., told LifeNews previously before the ruling. “How can the NAACP possibly claim neutrality over the abortion issue if they’re financially profiting from annual sponsorship from the nation’s largest abortion chain?”
Despite the NAACP suit, Bomberger says the Radiance Foundation’s www.TooManyAborted.com abortion awareness campaign will continue to expose failed leadership in the black community on the issue of abortion. Abortion alone has taken the lives of over 16 million black children. For every 100 live births in the African American community, another 77 are aborted. African-American teenage abortion rates are more than twice as high as the national average, according to a new study. The African-American abortion rate, according to the study conducted by the Guttmacher Institute, is 41 per 1,000 women among the 15-19 year old age group. The national average abortion rate is 18 per 1,000 women among 15-19-year-olds.
Alliance Defending Freedom allied attorney Charles M. Allen with the Glen Allen, Va. firm Goodman, Allen & Filetti PLLC is defending Bomberger and Radiance in U.S. District Court in The Radiance Foundation v. National Association for the Advancement of Colored People for the Eastern District of Virginia, Norfolk Division.